In many ways, social media epitomises what the web is about: collaborating and sharing content, ideas and information. Social media is behind the explosion of content on the Internet, as various channels have allowed anyone with an Internet connection to create and share content easily and for free. Because social media has so many participants, it is also very dynamic.
Simply put, social media are media (from written to visual to audio) that are designed to be shared. Sharing means that it easy to comment on, send and copy the media, and that there are no high costs associated with this. And, because of the connected nature of the Internet, it means that sharing, commenting and viewing can all be tracked and measured.
Social media are also referred to as Web 2.0, consumer-generated media, citizen media and new media. In fact, comparing social media to traditional media is probably the most useful way of defining what exactly this means.
In this post, you will learn:
- The four main social media channels – social networking, content sharing, bookmarking and aggregating, and location-based media
- A wide variety of platforms that fall under these four channels
- How to track and measure your social media marketing success
- The best ways to engage with audiences on social media
Social Media Channels
Social media has changed the world of marketing. Social media is all about the ways in which we create, connect and share content online, and can be used as an integral part of an online marketing campaign.
To keep up with their audiences, traditional media have had to adapt. This has changed the way in which they publish, both online and offline, as well as how they can sell advertising.
For example, many newspapers now publish their content online as well as in their print publications. Online, they can get instant commentary on their articles. This snapshot of what their readers think can then be used to make editorial decisions.
Print stories can be supplemented online with video, and this has been embraced by many news organisations. Visit www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio to see how one newspaper is using video online. News also comes from citizen journalists – people on the ground who post instant updates to social media about events unfolding around them.
The following post addresses the strategic use of social media to achieve a variety of outcomes. Here we look at the various social media channels. Categorising social media into channels is challenging, but it is a useful way to compare them.
And not all platforms fall neatly into one channel – for example, Twitter is part microblog, part social network, part aggregator, and even includes some location based elements. We’ve categorised the platforms below according to their dominant properties, but always keep in mind that these aren’t exclusive and may change as social channels adapt to meet their users’ growing requirements.
Social media channels can be categorised as:
- Social networks: social channels that are built around social profiles.
- Content creation: using social channels to create and share content.
- Bookmarking and aggregating: social curation and sharing content.
- Location: a subset of social networks that are based on location.
Social networking refers to forming and maintaining online social networks for communities. The communities are people who share real-world connections, interests and activities, or are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. And to complete the definition: building these social networks requires the use of software.
Social networking is all about using the tools of the Internet to connect and build relationships with others. Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpaceand LinkedInallow users to create personal profiles and then interact with their connections by sharing media, sending messages and blogging. Not only do social networking sites allow you to interact with the members of your own virtual Rolodex, but they also allow you to extend beyond your personal network. In addition, organisations – anything from businesses to bands and charities – can also create and maintain profiles on many of these networks.
Social networks have created new meaning for the term ‘friend’, with many connections existing solely online. In the realm of social networking, it is unnecessary to have met someone in order to connect with them. Personal profile pages remove much of the anonymity of the Internet. Users of social networks reveal a great deal of information about themselves, from basic demographics such as age, gender and location, to nuanced and detailed lists of likes and dislikes. They are also divulging this information to the networks, and hence to the networks’ advertisers to allow more relevant targeting. Users tend not to be aware of the data that is amassing in their online profile, and this can lead to privacy risks and concerns.
Social networks can be general, such as Facebook, or niche, such as LinkedIn or Dopplr. LinkedIn is a network for business professionals. Members connect to people they know professionally and are able to recommend members they have worked with. Dopplr is a social network for frequent travellers. Members can share their trips, and make plans to meet up when schedules overlap.
There are social networking platforms that allow anyone to build their own social network using the underlying technology of the platform. One example of this is Ning.
Facebook has become the most dominant personal social network in the world. According to official figures, over 1 billion people are now registered on the platform – that’s one in every seven humans on earth – and more than half of them are active on Facebook every day (Facebook, 2013). Because people are spending so much time on Facebook, advertisers and marketers naturally want to capitalise on this audience.
Over the past few years, Facebook has launched a number of ways for brands and organisations to use the social network to connect with potential customers.
A Page is profile for a brand, organisation or celebrity. It looks very similar to a personal profile, and in the same way in which two people can add each other as friends on Facebook, people can choose to connect with a brand on Facebook by liking its Page.
Each Page consists of the following elements:
- A cover image (the large banner at the top)
- A profile image that represents the brand
- Some ‘About’ information that can include links and more detailed information
- The ‘Wall’, where the brand’s posts and interactions are displayed in a chronological timeline
Tabs are distinct pages of information on the brand’s Page. Tabs can be used to house richer, more graphic content. Information in the tabs can be served through an application or through an iFrame, allowing for interactions within them.
Applications are developed by third parties, and include games such as Farmville, contests, virtual gifting, photo uploaders, interactive tools, and more.
Applications are a way for organisations to create branded experiences for their Facebook fans. Sharing can be built right into the application, exposing it to the user’s Facebook friends, and making it easier for the user to invite friends to use the application as well.
Facebook makes frequent updates that may affect applications, so they’ve made several developer resources available. The one to watch is the Developer Roadmap.
Promotions and Competitions
Brands can run promotions and competitions through their Facebook Pages, but must ensure that they comply with Facebook’s terms and conditions. Wildfireis an application that can be used to run promotions on Facebook.
Facebook Connect allows users to log into services external to Facebook using their Facebook login details. They can then grant permission to have information, such as profile data and photos, shared between Facebook and the service they have logged in to. This can make it easier for users to log in to new services without having to create new usernames and passwords. They can also easily see who else in their social circle is using that service, and share information back to their social circle.
The Facebook Like button allows users to indicate that they like or recommend content, images, media or websites, and to share that recommendation with their social circle. The Like button can be used by any website, allowing visitors to recommend their site and content easily, and to see who of their friends might like the same content.
The news feed is the stream of content that users see when they log in to Facebook. It’s a selection of recent posts and updates from their friends, and from the brands with which they have connected on Facebook. Facebook uses an algorithm, based on relevance to the user, to determine what information to show in their news feed.
This algorithm is called the News Feed Algorithm, and is a more sophisticated version of the original algorithm, which was called EdgeRank.
According to an official Facebook update, the following factors are considered by the algorithm before it displays content in a user’s news feed:
- Is this timely and relevant content?
- Is this content from a source you would trust?
- Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
- Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
- Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
- Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed? (Facebook, 2013)
Brands want their Page posts, stories and comments to appear in a user’s news feed. The user is more likely to interact with content in the news feed, or to follow through to the page, than if there were nothing to prompt them. It is therefore vital to ensure that your page content takes this algorithm into consideration.
Social Networking as a Marketing Tool
Social networks, which are usually free for their members, tend to rely on advertising for their revenue. Because demographic and psychographic information is collected by the social networks, advertisers are able to target their adverts to a very specific audience segment.
Most social networks offer opportunities for brands to create a presence on the social network, and to make use of the existing social network to connect with and reach out to customers.
YouTube may be the first content-sharing site that comes to mind, but users share images, audio and other media, too. If it can be created, it can be shared. There are many sites that make it easy to share videos, images and audio, and they are exceptionally popular. From Instagram to YouTube, they have all tapped into the fact that we love to create content for others to view.
The key word here is free: there are no fees for joining, whether you are uploading or viewing content (although premium paid-for memberships can provide added features). This means that these sites attract an enormous audience. In fact, according to Alexa rankings, YouTube is the third largest website in the world (Alexa, 2013)!
Many of these services also encourage distribution of their content. YouTube allows videos to be embedded easily into other websites, and Flickr has generated a number of applications and widgets that allow the images to be shown all over the web (and even printed onto cards and stickers via www.moo.com).
Most of these websites rely on advertising to support the free services they offer. Some do, however, have premium memberships that are advert free.
People love to share photos, images, art and funny pictures online. Images tend to attract higher engagement than text-only posts (as you saw with Facebook’s EdgeRank above).
Flickris a website that allows users to store and share their photos online. Users can publish these publicly or share them privately with chosen connections.
Instagramis a mobile-based photo app that allows you to take a picture with your phone camera, and then add an interesting artistic filter to make it look polished and beautiful. These can then be shared on social networks for followers to view and comment on.
Pinteresttakes image sharing to a new level by allowing users to create virtual pinboards of their favourite curated images (either their own ones, or images they have found online). These boards are usually grouped by topic or theme; images can be shared, commented on, or ‘repinned’ to another user’s board.
Online video consumption continues to grow year on year as bandwidth gets faster and cheaper. Sharing video content is easy with social video sites such as YouTube.
Anyone can upload videos captured on simple devices such as webcams and mobile phones, or on high-end professional cameras. There are several video-sharing platforms. Some of the most popular include YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram Videoand Vine.
On YouTube, which is owned by Google, users upload 100 hours’ worth of video every minute, and 4 billion hours of video are watched every month (YouTube, 2013). This makes it the premier social video-sharing site on the web. Most video consumption is based on social media – the top videos have succeeded because they have been spread virally over vast social networks – and over one billion unique users visit YouTube every month (YouTube, 2013).
YouTube offers many features to video uploaders and viewers, and is simple to use. While it is possible for unregistered users to watch most of the publicly available videos, a quick, straightforward registration process allows members to upload an unlimited number of clips, comment on and add video responses to them, and subscribe to content feeds that catch their attention and interest. Frequently enhanced functionality and clever features continually push YouTube to deliver bigger and better services to its ever-increasing user base.
YouTube and Marketing
There are two aspects to marketing through YouTube: promoting video content through YouTube, and advertising next to (or during) content on YouTube.
YouTube offers Brand Channels. Brands can sign up for and customise their own channels on YouTube, adding backgrounds, logos, playlists and additional community features. Organisations and brands can also promote their own content using YouTube’s Promote Your Video feature, and can post adverts through Google AdWords.
Using social services such as YouTube allows video creators to tap into an existing community of avid video viewers. For example, YouTube has changed the way we view video commercials. Marketers have shown that if an advert is good enough, many people will choose to watch it. Super Bowl commercials, for example, are highly anticipated each year, and the best ones receive millions of online video views. These are people who have chosen to watch this advert at a media cost of zero! Other advertisers have realised that far longer adverts can be created and uploaded. As long as the content is good, people will watch (and hopefully share). Time constraints are not the same as they are for television networks.
Online video sharing also makes it possible for conferences to generate a far greater audience than ever before. The companies that run these conferences are able to engage with a massive audience by posting videos of the conference presentations – an excellent example of content marketing. TEDand Nokia’s, which runs Nokia World, are excellent examples of organisations that increase interest by making their remarkable presentations available for free.
A blog is a website where entries (blog posts) are typically displayed in reverse chronological order. Technorati, a blog and social media tracking engine, defines a blog as a “regularly updated journal published on the web”. Blogs usually allow readers to comment on blog posts. A typical blog will feature text, images and links to other related blogs and websites.
Blogs can be about anything – from personal journeys to political commentary and everything in between. They can be written by one person or by a group or company. Some are aimed at the blogger’s immediate family and friends, and others rival leading newspapers in terms of reach and readership. Blogs are mostly text based, but can comprise solely of images, videos, audio or a combination of any of these.
According to Wikipedia, by 2012, there were 77 million Tumblr blogs and 56.6 million WordPress blogs worldwide – that’s a lot (Wikipedia, 2013).
The basic elements of a blog post are:
- Author: the person who wrote the blog post.
- Title: the title of the blog post, which is usually used to create a unique URL, or permalink, for the blog post.
- Tag: the categories used to describe the blog post, and aid services such as Technorati in categorising them.
- Comment: the comments left by readers of the blog, usually shown below the blog post.
- TrackBack: a notification of other blogs linking to a post, often displayed below the blog post.
Some other elements of a blog include:
- RSS feed: an RSS feed allows readers to subscribe easily to the blog.
- Categories: blog posts can be allocated to categories.
- Blogroll: a collection of links to other blogs or websites frequently read or used by the blogger.
- Archives: previous posts remain available for visitors to search through, and are usually categorised by date.
Whether blogging as an individual or a company, there is plenty to be gained from the process. You can:
- Create an online identity.
- Create a voice for yourself or your company.
- Promote engagement with your audience.
- Build a community.
Blogs can be very successful marketing tools. They’re an excellent way to communicate with staff, investors, industry members, journalists and prospective customers. Blogging also helps to foster a community around a brand, and provides an opportunity to garner immediate feedback on developments.
Generally, the tasks that a blogger undertakes include:
- Writing posts
- Replying to comments from readers
- Monitoring other blogs within the industry
- Keeping up to date with the latest industry news
- Building relationships with other bloggers in the community
- Commenting on other blogs
It is important to outline a strategy and establish guidelines before starting a corporate blog, especially as there will most likely be a number of contributors.
Transparency and honesty are important, but companies should also be aware of sensitive information being blogged. If there are ‘no go’ areas, they need to be clearly defined to the parties involved. While certain topics can be restricted, ultimately the bloggers should be granted the freedom to express both negative and positive points of view about the approved topics.
Positive claims are more believable if the blogger is able to express negative views as well. For example, Robert Scoble, in his popular blog www.scobleizer.com, admitted that the Firefox browser was better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Robert Scoble was an employee of Microsoft at the time. This honesty gave him a credible voice, and so his positive views on Microsoft are respected by the community.
Corporate blog content should be:
- Industry relevant
- Appealing to your target market
- Transparent and honest
- Personal and entertaining
- Related to what’s going on in the blogosphere
- Posted regularly
Blogging and SEO
Search engines value regular, fresh content, and blogging can create just that. The more you post, the more often search engines will crawl your site, looking for additional, relevant content. Basing your blog on the keyword strategy created during the SEO process can also ensure that your website ranks for those key phrases. Blogs, by their social nature, can also increase the incoming links to your website.
Using a blog platform designed to be search engine-friendly is crucial to harnessing the SEO power of blogging.
Some features of SEO-friendly blogging platforms:
- Each blog post should be assigned a unique page that can easily be accessed and indexed by the search engines (this is called a permalink).
- It should be possible to tag pages with keywords relevant to your SEO strategy.
- Each post should be able to have its own unique metadata (title, description and key phrases).
- Social sharing and bookmarking functionality should be built in.
While there may be around 200 million blogs on the web, it doesn’t mean that all of these will still be up and running a year from now (Hughes, 2013). Longevity rests in the hands of the blogger, but here are some tips to raise the profile of a blog:
- List the blog in blog directories: while they’re not as popular as search engines, many Internet users do visit them when looking for information. Examples include Blogarama, Bloggeriesand BlogCatalog.
- Ping web services with updated content: sites such as Ping-o-Matic and Feed Sharkoffer a service whereby they ping multiple web services, blog directories and search engines to let them know that a blog has fresh content.
- Use TrackBacks: If a blogger writes a new post commenting on, or referring to, an entry on your blog, and both blogging tools support the TrackBack protocol, then the commenting blogger can notify your blog with a ‘TrackBack ping’. The receiving blog will typically display summaries and links of all the commenting entries below the original entry. This allows for conversations spanning several blogs that readers can easily follow.
- Participate in the blogosphere: You can’t expect anyone to engage on your blog if you’re not engaging on theirs. It’s all about fostering a sense of community.
- Make use of aggregators: Examples of aggregators include Technorati and Reddit.
Blogs as a Marketing Tool
Blogs are powerful because of their reach, their archives (information is seldom deleted and is thus available long after it has been posted) and the trust that other consumers place in them. For a marketer, they present opportunities to learn how others perceive your brand and to engage with the audience. Some brands get this right; some get it wrong.
We’ve provided some guidelines for corporate blogging, but marketers do not need to be bloggers to benefit from this tool. As with all other social media, blogs provide a snapshot of audience sentiment regarding a brand. Marketers can also listen to blog activity around competitors to gain market insights.
Although blogging is the best way to engage with bloggers, companies can also interact with bloggers by commenting on relevant posts. Demonstrating the capacity to listen to bloggers and then respond using the same medium can reap tremendous benefits with this community.
Blogging platforms that can be used to set up a blog quickly and easily include:
Microblogging is a form of blogging that allows a user to publish short text updates, usually limited to 140 characters, that can be viewed by anyone or restricted to a specific community. The most popular microblogging service is Twitter, which was launched in July 2006. These 140-characters posts, called tweets, are usually short thoughts or links to interesting articles. As of June 2013, Twitter has more than 500 million members, with 400 million Tweets being written each day (Smith, 2013).
Twitter has some specific jargon that it’s worth knowing:
- Tweet: A post on made on Twitter.
- @username: users are denoted with @ and their chosen name (e.g. @robstokes for twitter.com/robstokes). Tweets can be directed to a specific user simply by typing their @username at the start of the tweet.
- Hashtag: users can categorise their posts by adding a word or phrased prefaced with the # symbol (for example, #DigitalMarketing). The hashtag will become a link that you can click to see other tweets that share this tag. You can also choose to follow a hashtag, meaning that you will see all public messages with that tag, whether you follow the user or not. This can be a very useful way of collating information at events such as conferences. If you’re not at the event, you can still follow messages from the event by following the hashtag. For those at the event, all tagged messages can be broadcast in a shared location.
- Trending: if a hashtag or keyword is used very frequently in a short time, it can become a trending topic and is displayed to the left of a user’s tweet stream. Events of global interest usually feature heavily, but sometimes brands can trend, too (although not always for the right reasons).
- Retweet (RT): retweeting means reposting somebody else’s tweet to your own profile, along with their user name. The letters RT are usually added to the start of the tweet to indicate that it comes from someone else.
Twitter has proved immensely valuable in breaking events, where real-time information is useful and powerful. For example, Twitter users broke the news of events such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Twitter as a Marketing Tool
Twitter has become a popular and important marketing tool for many organisations, brands and individuals. Many brands use it successfully for rapid customer service (for example, @comcastcares, @klm and @mwebguy).
Its immediacy allows for news to be broadcast to dedicated followers and fans first, as pop star Lady Gaga has done with single releases (@ladygaga). Dell lists several Twitter channels (www.dell.com/twitter), many of which exclusively release offer information (@delloutlet).
Twitter also has a series of self-service advertising options, which are covered in detail in the module on online advertising. These include Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends.
A podcast is a digital radio (or video) programme downloadable from the Internet. It is possible to subscribe to a podcast as one would to a blog. You can listen to a whole range of programmes and voices; just as blogs have allowed people to become writers without having to deal with a media channel controlled by someone else, podcasting has allowed anyone who fancies doing so to become a broadcaster.
Many traditional radio shows are now also available in podcast format. ‘Podcatching’ software allows you to download the latest edition of any podcast you subscribe to automatically. Most people use iTunes – go to www.apple.com/itunes/store for loads more information on podcasting and a huge list of available podcasts. You can listen on your computer or transfer the file to an iPod or MP3 player. Podcasts are usually free, and the most successful ones have very highquality content and production value.
Creating a Podcast
Podcasts are usually recorded and edited using home equipment, and done for the love of it. There is specialised podcasting software available, such as Apple’s Garage Band or QuickTime Pro. These packages make it quite simple to record, mix and format the audio files correctly. Just like bloggers, though, many podcasters are trying to figure out ways of making money from their podcasts and turn listeners into revenue.
Podcasts as a Marketing Tool
Podcasts offer an incredible opportunity for marketers. The bottom line is that you now have a way of getting content to your target markets without having to persuade a media channel to carry it or to pay huge advertising rates.
- Targetable: you can create highly relevant, niche content and then promote it to a specific target market.
- Measurable: you can see exactly how many downloads and subscribers you have.
- Controllable: it’s your content.
- Responsive: set up a blog alongside your podcast and alter content according to the comments; you are actually having a conversation with your market.
- Boundary free: it’s the Internet.
- Relatively inexpensive: the equipment, software and skills are readily and cheaply available, and there are few or no distribution costs.
However, the content must be:
- Excellent quality: like anything on the Internet, it is just as easy to unsubscribe as it is to subscribe. Quality content is what keeps listeners coming back.
- Real and valuable: while there is value in having product or service information embedded in a website, there is no point at all in producing an audio version of a company brochure as a regular podcast. Consumers are losing faith in the content of traditional media. Even if editorial is not actually paid for, a lot of the time it has been influenced in some way by advertisers. Although there are podcasts that carry adverts, people can fast forward straight past them, and the chance of real success lies in branded content.
This is not about advertising or even just product information. It is about coming up with ideas for real programmes that, through informing or entertaining, enhance your customers’ experience of your brand.
Bookmarking and Aggregating
If there are websites you visit often, or that you would like to keep as a reference to come back to, it is easy to use your browser to ‘bookmark’ them. This means that you store the URL so that you can locate it again easily. It also gives you a personal library of websites that you can store on your computer.
Social bookmarking sites, however, allow you to store these links online, use tags to describe them, and share these lists with other users. Some of these sites allow you to submit URLs that other users vote on, while others allow you to use the tags saved to browse through the lists and libraries that have been generated.
Websites that encourage users to submit content to bookmarking and aggregating sites use chiclets. These are buttons placed around the content that make it easier to submit and share the article.
These services allow you to see what the community of web users finds useful, interesting or humorous. You are able to find other users with similar interests to yours, and explore the websites that they have found that you might not have come across yet.
Content submitted to a social bookmarking or aggregating site can dramatically increase traffic to a website, and expose the site to many new views.
Deliciousis a social bookmarking site designed to help Internet users organise online media in a quick, easy-to-access and userfriendly format. The primary function of Delicious is to allow you to store all of your bookmarks online and then access those bookmarks from any computer anywhere in the world. Delicious is more of a community-based tool than other social bookmarking sites, as it allows others to see your bookmarks. Essentially, it lets you identify other people whose interests and concerns parallel yours and grants you access to all of their bookmarks as well.
Diggand Redditare sites where users submit content that other users can vote on. Popularity, based on votes, moves the submitted content up and down the rankings. Submitting and voting requires registration, but there are many people who visit these sites just to get an overview of content that is ‘hot’.
Appearing on the top of these lists generates a huge increase in traffic for the content sites, so much so that servers can crash if the leap in visitors is unexpected. Getting into the top listings is the goal of many a marketer, but any attempt to manipulate listings usually backfires and can generate plenty of community backlash.
The communities around these sites differ demographically, and this is reflected in the content. For example, Digg has been technology focused, while Reddit tends to feature more general news.
Stumbleuponallows you to explore the web through your interests, based on how other web users tag content. Users select categories of interest and bookmark URLs to those categories. You can then choose to ‘stumble’ through the web using the category of your choice. The service will randomly show you a website that has been submitted to that category.
Bookmarking and Aggregating as Marketing Tools
Seeing how users categorise your content will give you an idea of how your audience perceives your website and company. It may be remarkably different from what you think they see you as. Look at other websites which are tagged similarly. You may find new competitors, and possibly new ideas.
You can also use these services to share what other URLs your company finds interesting. This can be a useful resource to add to an online press room, as well as a utility that fanatics of your company would get really excited about.
To generate links and traffic, investigate the sort of content for which your target audience loves voting, and create that content. A word of warning: never do the content submission and voting yourself. It’s one sure-fire way to incur the wrath of these communities.
Organic growth is the only way to go here. It may take time as you build your reputation and value among the community, but the end result can be very worthwhile.
Location and Social Media
Social media have also seen the introduction of location services such as Foursquareand Facebook Places. These services allow users to ‘check in’ at locations they visit with equipment such as mobile phones and tablets.
By checking in, users are able to share their location with their friends and find others who are checked in as well. Depending on the tool, they can add reviews, post messages and upload photos of the locations they are checked into.
Foursquare lets users become ‘mayors’ of locations they have visited more than anyone else. These location services appeal to marketers for a number of reasons, since they can obtain, engage with and retain customers by leveraging their interactions with the real-world. For instance, if people see their friends checking in at certain places, they are more likely to want to go there, particularly if their friends have posted a positive review of the location.
These services also offer rewards and special deals to users who have checked in, incentivising them to return and share the location with their friends. Starbucks offers a range of location-based incentives, for example, offering all mayors of Starbucks stores a discount at any branch.
Tracking Social Media Campaigns
As with any digital marketing tactic, you need to be able to track and measure your campaigns in order to understand how successful they are, and what you can do to improve them.
With most social networking channels, you do not actually host your presence, which means that custom tracking is limited. There is often a strong reliance on the built-in tracking offered by the various channels, although new third-party tracking services are emerging and offering competitive and sophisticated tools (often for a fee). In some cases, it is also possible to integrate tracking to some extent if you are directing traffic to a web property that you own.
Facebook Insights is available to page administrators, and provides data on how people are interacting with your content and your page. This includes demographic information about the people connecting with your content (age, gender and location breakdown), which tabs and which content posts are seen and interacted with, and how many people hide your content from their news feed, and when. There is also data that shows how people got to your page.
YouTube Analytics is available to all YouTube users for their videos and channels. As well as showing video views and popularity broken up by geographical territory, there is some demographic information shown as well. Discovery data shows how people got to your video.
One of the most useful reports for any video is audience attention, showing when people stop viewing a video, or rewind sections of video, and comparing this to videos of a similar kind.
Currently, Twitter Analytics is available only to Twitter advertisers, but there are a number of tools that use the Twitter API to provide analysis. HootSuite’s Twitter management tools have built in analytics, and Twitalyzer is another tool that can provide insightful data. Important metrics for Twitter include how many people interact with your content by clicking through on links, replying to you or retweeting messages.
Click Tracking with URL Shorteners
URL shorteners offer analytics that show how many people are clicking on links, when they are clicking, and where in the world they are. When you are sharing links on services like Twitter, you should be tracking this data. When selecting a URL shortener, consider whether or not they keep the click analytics private.
URL shortening services provide an easy way to share long links by generating a short URL that redirects to the original link. This is especially important when sharing links in messages with limited character counts, such as tweets.
There are several URL shortening services: bit.ly, goo.gl and ow.ly are three examples, and some websites have their own bespoke services, such as nyti.ms for The New York Times (which is excellent for reinforcing brand recognition).
For example, we may want to tweet a link to a blog post on GottaQuirk, Quirk’s blog. The URL to a post may be: http://www.gottaquirk.com/2013/02/08/my-quirky-tips-for-digital-marketing/.
That’s 89 characters!
Using bit.ly, a URL shortening service, the link becomes: http://bit.ly/153sjC6. It’s now just 19 characters long, and can be tracked. Even better, some link shorteners allow you to customise your link, so the result could be: http://bit.ly/QuirkyTips, which is much easier to read and share.
Web Analytics for Social Media
Web analytics software such as Google Analytics plays a part in social media tracking. On Facebook, tracking script can be inserted in applications and tabs where content is served through an iFrame. When you are sharing links to your
own site and content, campaign tracking parameters can be used to track the source of visits and report on them in your web analytics tool.
For example, we may use campaign tracking before we shorten the URL, so the URL before shortening becomes: http://www.gottaquirk.com/2013/02/08/myquirky-tips-for-digital-marketing/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=ORM
The campaign tracking is appended on the end of the URL:
Social Media Marketing: Rules of Engagement
Social media implies a democratisation of information, and requires authenticity and openness from those who deliberately use it for marketing. This means that good and bad stories spread and stick around. Jeff Jarvis may have had problems with Dell way back in 2005, but you can easily find all the relevant information with a quick Google search for ‘Dell hell’.
Although they are engaging publicly with a wide audience, marketers need to remember that they are communicating with individuals. While marketers should engage in the conversation, and possibly lead it, they cannot control it.
Marketing to Content Creators
Because they are so influential, approaching online influencers should form a part of any PR strategy. Supply content creators with the tools and resources they need to talk easily about your product, including links to your social profiles, Twitter handles and hashtags.
Marketing to Content Consumers
Social media allow anyone to have a say, and the same tools that are available to individuals are available to companies. Company blogs allow a brand to build a personality and to interact with their target market. Entertainment created and spread via social media increases brand touchpoints. Using the same channels that are available to your consumer aids in understanding the consumer, and levels the plane of conversation.
When using social media to reach out to content consumers, go to where your consumers are. The media you use is dictated by your users. For example, a nightclub for students can create a Facebook Page to advertise its weekly specials, and interact with fans, while Land Rover enthusiasts may be more comfortable with a discussion forum.
With all interactions, marketing messages need to be clearly identified and labelled, with a disclaimer added if necessary. Trying to hide them as something else will only decrease your authenticity.
Marketing to Content Sharers
Content sharers are content consumers who also pass your message on, whether it’s by chat or email, by sharing a link on a blog or by submitting your content to a bookmarking or aggregating service. They are a crucial link in the chain that passes your message around. Make it as easy as possible to share your content by using chiclets and unique and easy-to-read URLs.
Advertise on Social Media Platforms
While marketers can use the tools of social media to convey their message, the characteristics that define a social media website are also important. Social media allows users to express themselves, and this means that demographic information can be compiled to allow for more useful and targeted advertising. This presents many opportunities for targeting advertising, and for finding creative ways to reach an advert-fatigued demographic. It also introduces the risk of dealing with personal information – make sure you’re up to speed with the relevant laws in your country.
Social media can tie in nicely with any of your other online marketing tactics – a holistic digital marketing strategy is always the best strategy.
Social media is inextricably linked to content marketing strategy, since content is the foundation of any social media marketing endeavour – whether you’re creating digital copy, images, videos or other media.
Social media can have SEO benefits for a website. By using social media services, either to create or share content, websites can attract links and generate engagement, helping to enhance search engine rankings. Signing up to several social media channels can help a company to own a larger chunk of the search engine results page. Companies can also use their SEO keyword strategy to focus their social media efforts.
Social media can provide a targeted network for online advertising, allowing detailed demographic information to play a role in media planning and buying. Companies can also make use of increased consumer engagement to create interactive advertising for these mediums, such as advertising within videos and social network applications, or merely making use of increased time-on-page metrics to create more intricate advertising.
Affiliates often use the opportunities presented by social media to find new avenues for targeted traffic, resulting in revenue growth for the company being marketed this way.
Social media plays a large role in online monitoring and reputation management, viral marketing and digital PR. Social media is used to express opinion, and so is the bedrock of online reputation. Any company that wants to communicate to this connected audience needs to listen to social media.